Monday, August 28, 2017

4 High-tech Car Accessories for Emergencies

Essential car accessories
Most drivers know the essential items they should have in their car for an emergency – jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, blanket, basic first-aid kit, and food and water. But there are also four high-tech items that will make your life a lot easier if your car breaks down or if you are involved in an accident.

1. Portable jump-starter

Jumper cables weigh a lot, take up a lot of trunk space and require you to find another vehicle to jump your car, says Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor for A portable jump-starter pack is much lighter and smaller – about the size of 4 DVD cases stacked together – and it can easily fit into your trunk without taking up a lot of valuable space.
The portable starter, powered by a lithium battery, can jump your car without another vehicle and charge your smart phone, too, says Montoya. The only drawback is you need to check the battery on the jump starter periodically to make sure it is charged enough to jump your car.

2. Car insurance app

Most insurance companies, including Nationwide, have a smartphone app. Installing your insurance app on your smartphone now can save you time later, Montoya says. You can call your insurance agent directly, collect and exchange insurance information in an accident, and start a claim. Nationwide also offers daily, 24-hour, emergency roadside assistance. The program includes a jumpstart, gas delivery, flat tire change and towing.

3. Car repair app

Whether it’s an auto emergency, a roadside breakdown, or just a small problem, RepairPal can tell you how much to expect to pay for a car repair as well as where to find the nearest mechanic. In addition, smartphones come with a mapping app, that will allow you to pinpoint where you are, says Montoya. You can then send your precise location to your family and friends via text message so they know your whereabouts in case of an emergency.

4. Survival kit app

When you’re stranded during severe weather conditions, it’s good to know how long you can run your engine on the remaining fuel. The Winter Survival Kit app calculates how long you can keep your engine running with the gas you have in your tank. It also reminds you to turn off your engine every 30 minutes and to check your exhaust pipe for snow build up to prevent you and your passengers from getting carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

4 Essential Boating Safety Tips

boating safety tips
As the weather turns warmer, more water sports enthusiasts will be out on the water with their recreational powerboats and watercrafts – and accidents will happen.
According to 2015 Coast Guard statistics, 85% of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets and only 15% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.
Here are four important boating safety tips to help prevent boating accidents:

1. Take a course

The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that 70% of boating accidents are caused by operator error. Before you leave the dock, make sure you know the rules and your responsibilities.
There are several online courses available, including a few free courses. The BoatUS Foundation offers a free online boating safety course developed specifically for each individual state. The U.S. Coast Guard offers an additional list of online and hands-on courses for boating safety.

2. Wear your life jacket

Even if you know how to swim, it’s important to wear a life jacket. Remember, not all life jackets are the bulky, bright orange ones we remember from summer camp. Life jackets come in a variety of styles and colors, and many are thin and flexible, allowing you to move around with comfort. A life jacket is essential in saving your life if you are involved in an accident.
Life jackets aren’t the only equipment you should have at the ready. Check out our list of 7 Boat Accessories to Bring on Every Trip and make sure you are prepared for almost any situation at sea.

3. Understand the dangers of carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide fumes can accumulate in and around your boat and unexpectedly knock you or your guests unconscious. Be aware of all the places fumes can accumulate, including:
●     Inadequately ventilated canvas enclosures
●     Enclosed spaces
●     Blocked exhaust outlets
●     Nearby boats
●     When your engine is idling, running at a slow speed or stopped

4. Get your boat checked

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons offer free Vessel Safety Checks. There is no charge, and there are no consequences if your boat doesn’t pass. To schedule a vessel check, fill out this form.
Boat insurance is another necessity for protecting you and your family in case of accidents. Get the boat insurance that’s right for you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nationwide Commits to Next Generation of Insurance and Financial Services

Nationwide launches new initiatives
Self driving cars. Artificial intelligence. Smart homes. The future of insurance protection and financial planning will continue to change significantly over the next several decades. It’s why Nationwide is investing in new initiatives to stay in front of consumers’ changing needs in the insurance and financial services category.
The company has made a commitment to invest more than $100M of venture capital in customer-centric solutions that help members:
  • Live comfortably in retirement
  • Meet their insurance and financial needs in novel and digital ways
  • Protect their data and digital assets
  • Protect them in the evolving area of mobility
Project space from Foundry
Nationwide has already invested in innovative member solutions with the recent launch of Guaranteed Retirement Income from Nationwide, Amazon Alexaintegration for SmartRide, and a strategic partnership with Sure to digitally distribute renter’s insurance.
In addition to these efforts, Nationwide launched Nationwide Ventures in early 2016 to invest in startup companies that are transforming the insurance and financial services industry.  Nationwide Ventures has made six investments to date, including blooom, Insurify, Next Insurance, as well as Sure.
Nationwide also opened Refinery 191 – an innovation laboratory where ideas are shaped and transformed. As a business incubator, Refinery 191’s goal is to partner with like-minded organizations to co-create innovative solutions.
“Nationwide’s core mission is to deliver value for our members by protecting what’s important to them,” said Nationwide CEO Steve Rasmussen. “This organizational change allows us to focus on emerging businesses and invest in startups that align to that mission. At the same time, we want to anticipate the future needs of our members and improve current processes and offerings to remain best in class.”
Nationwide Chief Innovation Officer Scott SanchezOn September 4, Scott Sanchez will join Nationwide as Chief Innovation Officer, reporting to Terrance Williams, Chief Marketing Officer and President, Emerging Businesses. At Nationwide, Sanchez will spearhead venture capital, business innovation and incubation, and will play a key role in accelerating innovation into the company’s culture.
“In this position, Scott will have a leadership role in moving our company forward,” Williams said. “With technology and consumer preferences changing exponentially, we need to stay on top of trends in the marketplace and develop solutions that will grow our business and serve our members in the best possible ways … possibly in ways that don’t even exist today. As we approach our centennial anniversary in 2026, we expect to look like a different kind of company, a company that excels in its core businesses while building the platform and foundation for the future, driven by external forces and internal ingenuity.”
Sanchez, a graduate of Harvard and Princeton, most recently was the vice president of innovation at First Data in Atlanta, where he was responsible for driving global innovation for consumers, merchants and financial institutions. He is also a coaching faculty member at Stanford University’s

Friday, August 18, 2017

How to Choose a Mutual Fund

how to pick a mutual fund
Some investors like picking stocks and investing in specific companies. There’s nothing wrong with that. But investing in mutual funds is a popular way to invest in many companies at the same time. There’s often less volatility than when buying one company’s stock because the risk is more broadly spread out over a number of companies.
It can be confusing to pick a mutual fund, though, which is one reason a financial advisor is a good person to have on your side for these important financial decisions. Once you have an advisor, and have determined your goals and risk tolerance, it’s time to talk about mutual fund choices. Each financial company offering mutual fund investments has a plethora from which to choose. How do you choose the right mutual fund for you and your portfolio? Here are five handy ways to consider picking a mutual fund, once you and your financial advisor have determined your goals:

Pick a sector

If you are interested in technology, precious metals, real estate or healthcare, for example, there are mutual funds targeted to them specifically. Focusing part of your investment on one sector is considered higher risk since some segments rise and fall depending on the economy. Investment advisers typically don’t tell clients to put all their money in one sector for this reason.
Some investors prefer to invest in mutual funds in several sectors to balance out the risk. Sector mutual funds tend to have a higher turnover of companies within the fund, which may prompt more capital gains taxes for the investor. Proponents of sector-based funds like the potential for higher returns and investing more broadly in companies in a specific field. Ask your financial advisor’s thoughts about including sector investing in your plan.

Are you a risk taker?

Each mutual fund has a risk profile, disclosed on the prospectus. Investors with a higher risk tolerance might choose more aggressive funds. These funds often have higher returns than other funds, but they’re also at risk for greater losses. Other investors want to preserve their money and grow it more slowly in exchange for a less risky investment.
One way to consider your risk tolerance is to think about when you may need access to the money. If you’re retiring in a few years and relying on your mutual funds for living expenses, you’ll be less interested in an aggressive fund than someone in their 20s who has a wider window to ride out the market’s highs and lows. A financial advisor will help you develop a plan based on your age, when you need the funds and your risk tolerance.

Age-based funds

Age-based funds, also called target-date funds, are a good way to balance a portfolio without having to allocate investments in mutual funds, bonds and cash. Pick a fund based on your expected retirement year, and the fund manager adjusts the mutual fund mix accordingly.
If you invest in the fund when you’re younger, the investments will be more aggressive because there’s more time to ride out market fluctuations, and the growth overall should be higher. As it gets closer to the retirement date, the mix becomes more conservative with a higher percentage of investments in bonds and cash. Speak with your financial advisor about an age-based fund option.

Index funds

Many investors prefer taking a market approach, mirroring a specific stock market to get the benefits of a balanced stock portfolio without the hassle. An index mutual fund includes all stocks in the index it’s modeled after, such as the Standard and Poor’s 500 or the Wilshire Total Market Index. There’s no mystery about what stocks are in the fund.
One advantage of index investing they generally have lower management fees. Since the fund isn’t actively managed but just shifted based on actual index changes, fees are often less than actively managed funds. One disadvantage is you’re not going to beat the market performance rates, since the fund is basically the same market ratio.

Pick a company you trust

With so many mutual funds available, one way to narrow the list is by only investing with financial companies that you trust. The companies should have a good reputation and keep management fees reasonable. Once you find companies that meet these criteria, it’s easier to choose from their mutual funds given your investing preferences.
Click here to learn more about finding a financial advisor who can help you get started with mutual funds.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Protect Your Home-Based Business with the Right Insurance

home business insurance
More than half of all U.S. businesses – 52% – are based in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent study commissioned by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America found that nearly 60% of home-based businesses do not have insurance coverage.
“When asked about the lack of insurance, nearly 40% of home-based business owners say they thought they were protected by some other type of coverage, while almost 30% say their businesses are too small to insure,” the IIABA said. “Notably, nearly 20% could not give a reason for not having insurance.”
Homeowners insurance covers incidents such as loss or theft of personal property. But if a delivery person slips and falls on your property or your business equipment is destroyed in a fire, homeowners insurance won’t protect you. Without coverage specifically designed for your home business, you put your livelihood, and possibly that of your employees, at risk. That’s why home-based business insurance is a good idea.

Choosing the right policy

No matter how small your home-based business, make sure you’re protected with the right coverage. There are three main property and liability options for home-based business insurance:
  • Homeowners policy endorsements: Adding an endorsement, also known as a rider, to your existing homeowners policy is often the simplest and most affordable way to insure smaller home businesses that don’t manufacture products on the premises or use a lot of equipment. Endorsements are also a good fit for solo entrepreneurs with few business-related visitors.
  • In-home business policy: Combining home and business insurance into a single plan, this type of policy offers more specific types of coverage. This policy is a step up from a basic homeowners policy endorsement, offering a greater range of coverage for a growing business. If your in-home business has developed into a mid-level operation with more visitors, equipment and output, this may be the policy for you. Such a policy may include more extensive property and liability coverage than endorsements, as well as business interruption coverage, which protects your income in the event your business is disrupted because of a disaster.
    Examples of what kinds of businesses would use this policy include a small baking operation that meets with clients in person and also does all baking, orders and shipping in-house; a clothing designer who fits clients, as well as manufactures and ships goods, from home or an accountant who makes regular in-person appointments and uses certain rooms in the house as dedicated office space.
  • Business owners policy: Often referred to as a BOP, this type of policy is the most comprehensive form of coverage for home-based businesses. It offers protection for claims brought by contractors, customers and employees, making it a good option for larger home-based businesses. It’s also the best fit for in-home businesses that operate in multiple locations or require extensive travel off-site.

Additional coverage

Whichever policy you consider best for the size and type of your business, be aware that you may need additional coverage not included in a standard plan. Here are some additional coverage options you may want to discuss with your insurance agent, if the plan you’re considering doesn’t include them:
  • Data compromise coverage: Helps protect you and your business from legal action stemming from a security breach that compromises confidential customer or client information.
  • Employment practices coverage: Protects against claims brought against you and your business by your employees.
  • Key person insurance: Basically life insurance on a person critical to the success of a business such as the owner, founder or a key employee, without whom the company might fail.
Most states require home-based businesses to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees, but purchasing this coverage is a smart move even if not mandated by law.
As you can see, in-home business insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all consideration. Talk to a Nationwide agent about the best coverage for your home-based business.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Bag

airline lost luggage
Lost luggage can send even the most level-headed air traveler into a frenzy. But keep your cool because you may be able to retrieve your belongings or even get reimbursed for your trouble.
Here’s what to do if your luggage goes missing at the airport:

Stay calm

Don’t panic if your luggage doesn’t show up right away because it’s probably not lost for good. Most likely it’s just delayed or is on a different flight, especially if you had to change flights. Your luggage should end up at your final destination, eventually.

File a claim

You should head to the claims office as soon as possible to file a lost luggage report. At the claims office, you will be asked to file a form detailing the contents of your luggage and the dollar value of each item. (You will only be reimbursed for the depreciated value of the missing items.) Under a directive from the Department of Transportation, domestic airlines are required to cover “all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay.”
Be prepared to present your case and possibly negotiate for more compensation on your lost luggage. You may also be able to get some money for items such as toiletries or a fresh change of clothes to hold you over until your luggage is returned.
Be sure not to leave the airport until you get all the information and documentation you need. Also, get the business card of a representative you can follow up with later.

Be patient

Don’t give up hope if your luggage isn’t returned immediately. It could be a few weeks or months before you and your bags are reunited. In the meantime, continue to check in with the airline about the status of your luggage. If you’re still dissatisfied, you can also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.

Prevent future problems

The next time you fly, you can take some steps to prevent another lost-luggage mishap. First, get a travel insurance policy that covers lost luggage up to the value of your belongings. Second, never pack valuables, precious jewelry or pricey high-tech gadgets in checked baggage. In fact, it’s probably better not to bring them with you at all, even in carry-on bags. Not only do airlines advise against packing these items, but they won’t reimburse you for them if you file a claim seeking compensation.
Third, before you leave home, be sure to take pictures of your luggage and its contents. Slip a business card inside your bags to identify them as yours in case the outer name tags somehow get removed.
And if you can pack your gear small enough to fit into the carry-on bag your airline allows you to keep with you – check with the carrier first on maximum size – you’ll avoid the lost luggage problem altogether.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

7 Summer Energy-Saving Tips to Lower Your Electric Bill

summer energy-saving tips
Figuring out how to lower electric bills in the summer can be difficult, especially when temperatures are at their hottest. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to save on your electric bill during the summer months. Try these 7 summer energy-saving tips so you can focus less on your electric bill and more on the pleasures of summer.

How to lower electric bills in the summer

1. Be smart about peak-time summer utility rates.

Plan to run your washer, dryer and dishwasher before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. to avoid peak usage times and potentially higher rates. Utility companies often raise gas and electricity rates during the hottest time of the day, according to Energy Upgrade California. You can still load the dishwasher after meals, but waiting a bit to run it can help lower summer electric bills.

2. Look for the Energy Star symbol.

Planning to replace your washer, dryer or refrigerator? Shop with energy savings in mind. The U.S. government’s Energy Star program certifies products that meet strict energy-saving specifications. According to, washers built before 2003 are significantly less efficient than newer models. Energy Star washing machines use about 25% less energy and 40% less water compared with regular washers. Similar money and energy savings can be found in newer dryers, refrigerators and other appliances that are Energy Star-certified.

3. Think outside the oven.

Running your oven on hot days makes your air conditioner run more to keep the house cool. Firing up the backyard grill for a barbecue instead can help you save on your electric bills in the summer.

4. Make cooling off a breeze.

Install ceiling fans, which can help everyone in the room feel cooler without the need to run the A/C as much – or at all. While the fans don’t actually lower the temperature in the room, they create a wind-chill effect and make you feel cooler by accelerating the evaporation of perspiration on the skin. Another summer energy-saving tip: Ceiling fans are of no use when no one is in the room, so turn them off when you leave.

5. Insulate your home.

Heating and cooling account for 50% to 70% of the energy used in the average American home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Reducing the energy spent on cooling by improving insulation is a great way to lower your summer electric bills. Newer homes generally are better insulated than older, unimproved homes because building energy codes have become progressively stricter over the years, says the DOE. If you have an older home, consider adding better insulation. Unless your newer home was constructed with special attention to energy efficiency, your utility bills will still probably benefit from improving your home’s insulation.

6. Check for air conditioner efficiency.

The DOE recommends having a professional check and clean your air conditioner (and your heater) once a year. If the unit is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer, more energy-efficient unit. A new system can greatly reduce your energy costs, says the DOE, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition. On your current system, check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with a duct mastic sealant. Keep yard debris away from the outside compressor of your air-conditioning unit and keep nearby bushes trimmed.

7. Create your own shade.

Keep draperies and blinds closed on the sunny side of the house. Adding awnings can help, too. Looking for a longer-term solution that will add to the beauty of your property? Plant trees. “This Old House” recommends particular trees for fast-growing (1½ to 2 feet per year) shade options.
Your home isn’t the only place that can benefit from being cooled down in the summer. Once you finish using these summer energy-saving tips for your home, check out some tips for keeping your car cool in the summer.

Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Benefits of Working for a Small Company Over a Big Business

small business vs big business
Many U.S. workers dream of a job at a large company with a well-known brand name. But there are advantages to working for a small business, and small business owners can lure top talent by promoting the special opportunities and customized benefits they provide.
These opportunities may be a perfect fit for a job candidate.
Here are some benefits of working for a small company compared to a large business:

1. Learning different aspects of the business

Many workers are hungry for hands-on experience and eager to gain practical skills. Small business owners can emphasize the advantages of working closely with senior-level managers and potentially gaining a firsthand view of many aspects of running a business.
“Employees at small companies are often able to gain exposure more quickly to different functional areas of the business,” says Brett Good, senior district president for Robert Half staffing company.
Also, many employees find it valuable to take on new tasks in addition to their official roles, such as interacting with customers or initiating a social media account. Small firms often provide great opportunities for employees to obtain different work experiences and discover new skills.

2. Opportunity to advance

At a small business, workers are the proverbial big fish in a small pond.  That means employees have high visibility from their first day and their creative ideas and hard work will be seen by the people at the top.
Small business owners can highlight the opportunities to gain additional skills and possibly to be promoted from within. “Since you’ll have the opportunity to work in multiple functional areas, you can gain exposure to the business and senior management, setting you up for leadership or entrepreneurial roles in the future,” Good says.

3. Flexibility

Some corporate environments are known for offering substantial flexibility in workplace or scheduling. Those are highly valued benefits, especially to working parents. But a small business can offer flexibility, too, and many savvy small business owners dangle perks such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting opportunities to highly qualified workers to make up for lower salaries or smaller bonuses.
Small firms often have more flexibility in how projects are carried out. “In a small company, there isn’t as much bureaucracy, so ideas and projects can usually be implemented faster,” Good says.

4. Workplace culture

Many corporations pride themselves on their strong workplace culture, an important differentiator for job applicants. But a small business’ culture can be a powerful draw for new employees as well.
Small business owners can promote a culture that aligns, or at least aspires to align, with the best corporate cultures in their industry. Small business owners should develop and promote their workplace cultures as assets, whether the culture is a supportive family atmosphere, or one with an emphasis on creativity and innovation, or something else.

5. Creative bonuses

Small businesses generally cannot afford large bonuses. But they can be creative and, because they have less red tape, they may be able to customize their extra fringe benefits to a greater extent. That could mean rewarding a prized employee with a day off for a kayaking trip or a luxurious spa visit. That personal attention can go a long way in making an employee feel satisfied working for a small business.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Checklist for Apartment Hunting

We’ve all heard horror stories of pest infestations, basement flooding, broken fixtures and neglectful landlords. And while some apartment problems are difficult to anticipate, many can be avoided with the right apartment hunting questions – if you remember to ask before signing a lease.
When viewing an apartment, there’s a lot to process in a short time. It’s easy to forget to check the laundry room, or ask whether the building allows pets. That’s where a checklist can come in handy. Print out the apartment hunting checklist below before your next apartment viewing to help keep track of the questions that matter. If you don’t see a question that should be there, add it to the back and don’t be afraid to ask while viewing apartments.

Download the Apartment Hunting Checklist

Apartment Checklist
Click to download

Is there anything that would be on your apartment hunting checklist that we missed? And do you have an apartment horror story of your own that could have been avoided by asking the right apartment hunting questions? Let us know in the comments.
Don’t forget to protect yourself from the unexpected. If you live in a rented apartment, condo or home, be sure to take a look at renters insurance. You can feel at ease by safeguarding your belongings in the event of theft, weather damage and much more with a customizable policy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Answer Interview Questions & Land the Job You Want

interview preparation tips
For many people, a job interview can be an unsettling experience. But if you prepare well by following the guidelines listed below, the experience can be enjoyable. If you emerge from an interview having enjoyed yourself and sensing that the interviewer did too, chances are good you’ll land the job.
The key to a good interview is to be authentically you, not the person you think the interviewer is looking for. Be professional and pleasant, answering all questions thoughtfully and honestly.
“The most important component of the interview is your likability,” says Michael Beygelman, CEO of talent search and acquisition platform provider Joberate. Your likability depends a lot on coming across as an authentic, enthusiastic and confident person. Strive to be relaxed.

Learn about your potential employer

Some preparation is important before the interview to demonstrate your understanding of the company. Make sure you know exactly what the company does and ask yourself how the position you are interviewing for fits into the big picture.
You should have more than a general idea of the company’s business, though. Dig into recent news about the company. Knowing what recent headlines the company has made will give you talking points.
Other ways to research the company: An increasing number of employment-related websites offer company profiles, in addition to listing job opportunities. These sites—among them, Glassdoor, Indeed and Jobster—also provide unvarnished assessments from current and past employees. LinkedIn is another good resource. You can learn about your interviewer’s background and interests through his or her LinkedIn profile.
Online CEO ratings are also helpful. They can provide a litmus test of what it might be like to work for the business. Profiles of top executives offer a window into a company’s management style and its workforce culture.

Make the interview a two-way discussion

Along with doing research so that you will feel informed and have a better idea of whether the company is a good fit, you should have a strategy for the interview discussion itself. Rather than merely talking about your accomplishments, highlight how you overcame challenges you confronted on previous work assignments. The idea is to break down the interviewer-interviewee wall, making the interview a two-way discussion.
You might also consider bringing along samples of your work, in case the interviewer asks about a particular project on your resume.

Be yourself

Interviewers are not just looking for someone who will excel at the job, but someone they will enjoy working with and who comes across as real. You should be courteous and professional at all times. Remember to be aware of your body language and tone of voice.
Ultimately, interviewers are looking for someone who is enthusiastic about the job, has the skills to do it well, and—most importantly—is someone they sense will be a pleasure to work with, day in and day out.